What Is A Long Black Coffee? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

by | Oct 28, 2019

It’s only fairly recently that “flat white” was introduced to many coffee shop menus – so we shouldn’t be too surprised to find out that another trend is for long black coffees. Just like the “flat white”, the “long black” originated “Down Under” and remains a very popular choice for coffee drinkers in both Australia and New Zealand.

Until around the 1870s, tea was more popular, particularly in Oz, but the influence of the many Italians who chose to settle in Australia is apparent in many of the delicious coffee choices now available. As with so many delicious everyday coffees, espresso forms the base of a decent long black.

Espresso – The Ultimate Essential Coffee Base

As the base for so many other coffee beverages, knowing how to recognize a decent espresso is pretty much an essential skill for a coffee aficionado. Espresso refers to the extraction method.

Espresso involves pushing hot water through a compacted mass, or puck, of coffee grounds. There are various methods available, some manual, some automatic. The key is the amount of pressure applied, typically 9 bars or above. For comparison, at sea level, you’ll usually experience 1 bar of atmospheric pressure.

A good espresso is made from freshly roasted, recently ground coffee beans. The preferred flavor depends very much on preference, but typically, what you’re looking for is a rich, fruity drink. One of the key features of a good espresso is the crema, the rich foam that sits on top of the liquid and imparts a stronger, richer flavor than that of simple filter coffee.


What Is A Long Black Coffee?

So what is a long black coffee anyway? Well, it used to be found primarily in Australia and New Zealand. It’s not unlike an Americano, but with a stronger flavor. This is partly due to the fact it’s usually based on a double shot of espresso rather than a single shot and partly to the volume of water used.

You start with hot water, and then you pour the double shot of espresso, or ristretto, over the water. Typically, a serving long black coffee is around 3.5 to 4 fluid ounces, and one of the joys of a long black is that you still get to enjoy the lovely crema that’s characteristic of a good espresso.


The Long Black Coffee Vs The Americano

While a “long black coffee” is not unlike an Americano, there are some subtle but important differences. Let’s just take a look at some of the features that mark the difference in the (good-natured) battle between the long black vs the Americano.

While in some circles an Americano has come to be pretty much synonymous with an everyday filter coffee (perish the thought), a true Americano is a little different. The base is a shot of espresso to which hot water, milk or cream, and sugar or syrup are then added to make it smooth and palatable.

Typically, a double shot of espresso will be used as the base for a long black coffee. Like the flat white (which, so coffee lore has it, originated in Australia), the long black coffee also has its roots “Down Under”. One of the key differences is that, for a long black, the water is heated first and then the espresso shot is added.


Where Did Americano Originate?

It’s thought that what we now know as Americano originated with GIs serving in Europe during WWII who found typical Italian coffee a little too strong for their tastes. Their choices were between espresso and the frothy cappuccino, both of which were slightly heavier than typical American coffee of the time.

The Italians often served coffee with extra hot water on the side, and gradually this became the default method of serving a “caffé Americano”. It’s rare to find a modern coffee shop that doesn’t have this on the menu.


Where Did Long Black Coffee Originate?

According to one of the country’s leading language blogs, run in conjunction with the Oxford University Press in England, the “long black coffee” was first mentioned round about 1981. The “short black” made its appearance just a few years later.

Although we associate Australia with summers of extreme heat, the winters can be surprisingly chilly. One of the joys of a flat black coffee is that it tastes equally good whether it’s the iced variety in summer or a steaming, fragrant beverage in the cooler months.

In New Zealand, the temperate climate is similar to the United Kingdom, Northern Europe, or some parts of the north-eastern seaboard of the United States. Hot coffee remains a favorite beverage.


What’s The Difference Between A Short Black And A Long Black Coffee?

While most folk would understand the term “espresso” these days, you will also occasionally hear it referred to as a “short black”. The “short” refers to the fact that the only water added is the water used to brew the drink. A true espresso will be served in a small cup. The average espresso is between 1 to 4 fluid ounces, and a one-ounce serving contains around 63 milligrams of caffeine.

Likewise, while most of us would regard an Americano as a standard offering these days, in some places, the closest equivalent is a “long black coffee”. A long black coffee consists of an espresso shot added to hot water. Typically, the amount of water used will fill the cup.


Long Black Coffee Recipes For Home

You probably have an inkling about how much we love recreating barista-style beverages in the comfort of our own laboratory, we mean kitchen, so we thought we’d share a couple of recipe ideas. And we’ll come clean – we pretty much looked to Australia and New Zealand on this one.

We’re sure you already know to choose your beans and your brewing method carefully. For a long black coffee, as with most other coffee variants, make sure your water is as fresh and soft as possible. Use a coffee roast that’s not too light for your espresso base.

Heat your water: between 6 to 8 fluid ounces at most. If you’re using an espresso machine, use water from the hot spout. If you’re using a traditional kettle, let the water cool for about 30 seconds once boiled.

Prepare your coffee: two shots of espresso for a long black, and add to the water. Savor the crema. Savor the aroma. Add sugar or syrup to taste. We’re huge fans of caramel, cherry or coconut. And then, simply enjoy it.

For iced variants, we’d suggest making sure both your water and your cup are as cold as possible. When you’re making the ice, the water caveats still hold – use fresh, soft water, ideally distilled or bottled if you can. Syrups work particularly well with iced long black coffee, though we’d probably suggest more fruit-based flavors.


Drinking Coffee Black – Postscript

We’ve mentioned the (alleged) Australian origins of long black coffee, but the drink is also popular in New Zealand. Japanese brand Suntory, arguably better known for whiskey rather than coffee, has just launched an Iced Long Black in a can in Aotearoa, or the “Land of the Long White Cloud” as it is often translated.

Anyone who’s ever visited the Land of the Rising Sun, knows how popular canned coffee is there: you can buy it pretty much anywhere, hot or cold. So it really wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest to see this rolled out worldwide in due course. Fingers crossed!

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